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2016 Presidential elections will be battle of giants (Part 1)

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LunguBy Bill Kapinga

Let’s face it, the 2016 Presidential and general elections will be very competitive and interesting at best, and yet mired in name calling and spine-chilling incidents of violence at worst! And even if we expect a coterie of different political parties awakening from deep slumber to try their lady luck as has now become the norm, this will be a two-horse race between ruling PF and opposition UPND.

It’s not yet clear though as to which party will be first to cross the finishing-line and lay claim to the colonial mansion at plot number 1 Independence Avenue.

What are the prospects for PF in these elections as the incumbents?

HH waves at supporters

HH waves at supporters

By now, I am sure President Edgar Chagwa Lungu may have been briefed by the ever sniffing shushushus (intelligence) that this will be a 50/50 affair between PF and UPND, hence his spontaneous forays into regions where PF seem to be fast losing their grip to the opposition e.g. Central and Copperbelt provinces among others.

As he has openly confessed in the past, Lungu never even imagined that he would one day vacate his humble dwellings somewhere in Lusaka and move into State House to succeed ailing President Sata. And when indeed Sata finally gave his last breath, Lungu found himself caught up in the struggle for power that threatened to tear the party apart.

However after much tussling and cajoling, the seemingly humble man who grew up in the sprawling dusty township of Chimwemwe Kitwe finally got the green light as his party’s touch bearer in the 2015 Presidential by-elections.

He went on to trounce his closest rival, UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema in a grueling contest by a paltry margin. It is important to appreciate that Lungu won the polls not because he put up a sterling performance during campaigns but mainly due to sympathy votes from late President Sata’s ardent followers.

And whatever last minute deal PF had to cut with former President Rupiah Bwezani Banda also greatly added to his numbers. The man who was once ridiculed, demonized and even labeled as corrupt by the current regime to such an extent as stripping him-off of his immunity and hauling him before the courts of law to answer some charges of corruption had suddenly become a hero!

Never to be one to miss such a golden opportunity, Banda wasted no time in helping mobilize campaign resources for an otherwise broke party and of course marshaling the much needed support particularly from the East where he still commanded respect. Fast forward January 2016, Lungu would have clocked one year in office.

Unfortunately for him, this will be yet another nail-biting moment when he will have to be subjected to elections again. This will be a different ball game altogether! The elections will come at a time when the country is still reeling from the deep economic crisis – massive job losses in the mines, incessant power outages, sky rocketing prices of essential commodities, nose diving value of the local currency, fuel price increases etc. I can imagine the rancour of a man who has barely been one year in office and has just started enjoying the trappings of power.

To escape the guillotine threatening to abruptly cut-short his presidency thereby winning himself a place in the annals of our history as the shortest-serving President, Lungu will have to think and move fast. In the ensuing months, we should probably expect to see Lungu frequently on the road commissioning this and that project around the country.

“As I promised you during the last elections fellow countrymen and women, my government has delivered!” I can hear his voice declare to enthusiastic adherents bussed-in from hither and thither during a mammoth rally.

“We’ve worked on the roads, built new schools, bridges, roads and what have you. Through this massive infrastructure development being undertaken by my government, we have created more jobs! What more can you ask for? This is the development you voted for. Give me 5 more years to complete the projects ba Sata ba tushilile………”

Of course the President knows that such rhetoric won’t easily assure him of victory considering the biting economy. Being a cunning and shrewd politician that he’s so far proven to be, Lungu will waste no time engaging in 4 wheel drive to negotiate his way back to State House through the rough and hostile terrain of Zambian politics. So far he has extended an olive branch to MMD by releasing 101 vehicles that his predecessor forcibly grabbed from the former ruling party. It’s just a matter of time before PF asks for the hand of MMD in a marriage of convenience – watch this space!

And maneuvers seem to be already underway to turn this affair into polygamous one by sweet-talking Elias Chipimo Jr. into it in return for a loft portfolio in cabinet, possibly as Finance Minister, to replace the aging and not so versatile Alexander Chikwanda. The straight talking PF deputy Secretary General Mumbi Phiri once intimated that the party would be more than happy to welcome Chipimo on board. Such sentiments have further been echoed by Bishop Javan Kamanga, former national secretary for NAREP, who has since found a home in PF.

Lungu’s confidence about winning the forthcoming polls is further boosted by the goodwill the party seem to still enjoy from ordinary people in society particularly the street vendors and marketeers who never miss an opportunity to actually sacrifice their precious time to cast their votes. One weekend for instance, I strayed into a pub within town center Ndola. This place is known for boisterous discussions on sports and politics. This is the very place where MMD cadre popularly known as Shimpundu Pankoloko was clobbered by cadres from another party. I deliberately provoked a discourse regarding the rising cost of fertilizer. The reaction was quite phenomenon.

“Whether the price of fertilizer is K500 or more, I’d still vote for Lungu!” the man countered as several other patrons chanted “infintu ni Lungu……”

The opposition mustn’t simply dismiss this as waffling of a few inebriated individuals who have had one too many! I believe a number people on the Copperbelt and Lusaka, share similar views despite the current economic hardships. Many at times, I have heard street vendors recounting that “PF eyatuletele mu street, we shall continue giving them our votes!”

When put together, such factors somehow improve the waning chances of PF to continue in office.

What then are the implications for UPND and the rest of the opposition?
To be continued……….


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